Thinking

My love affair with our digital world

By Valerie Bounds, Chief Strategy Officer / 5 October 2021

My career is just rounding up to a quarter of a century. I’ve been in digital since I started. I was studying for my Masters the year Google launched. SEO was a term yet to be coined. Googling was not yet a habit. Google’s home page was a thing of intrigue and discussion amongst my colleagues because it was ‘so stripped back.’

 

This is what it looked like:

Minimalistic design has come a long way since then. At that time the internet was in its infancy and unbelievably exciting for us.

The idea you could reach friends via your computer; friends far away. That you could meet online and chat. That you could hang out and ‘meet’ new people. That you could access any content (albeit waiting 5 minutes for a page to load). That you could, with a little coding knowledge, publish whatever the hell you wanted – and think someone could actually read it. We created a blog before we knew that word. Lots of people did. An online diary of sorts. And we found out about websites mostly by word of mouth.

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That’s why I studied Electronic Publishing, a brand new course in the journalism department of City University, who traditionally fed into the national media. 

There was much skepticism that this newfangled web thing would ever replace printed publications. The ‘web team’ from The Times came in to talk to us about what they were doing. There was three of them, in total – and the rest of the journalists ignored what they did completely. They were left to it, and having a ball. 

That sounds alright, I thought.

Friends reunited launched two years after that, yet social media (which at the time we cool kids called web 2.0) was yet to be properly conceived of; MySpace, Facebook and Youtube still years away. The idea of expressing yourself through video upload a totally alien concept.

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I didn’t yet own a mobile phone. I got my first Nokia 3310 in the year 2000, delightedly played Snake and Tetris and felt very cool because I bought a sparkly phone front.

And then of course, smartphones took it way beyond. That’s why I’m such an addict for mine; it’s just the most incredulous idea that they should exist. As a child I grew up watching sci-fi imagined technology that I could only dream of; that it’s become a reality is on a par with discovering the Far Away Tree exists.

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We’re all more than used to this technology. We expect it, immediately, and with exceptional levels of design and sophistication. I find it so interesting to see this expectation when 25 years ago the idea of dialing the internet via a modem was thrilling. And not long before that dialing up meant a wired rotary phone and a sore finger. Plus actually having to memorize phone numbers, and the anxious lottery of who might be calling you when the phone rang.

We constantly adjust, acclimatise and then just expect more. We forget how incredibly clever and complex the technology that weaves through every touchpoint of our lives is – and take for granted the fact that it is universally available (pretty much) and accessed at the touch of a button.

And ofcourse it continues to get cleverer and more immersive; converging reality and digital. And I’m astounded. The creativity, imagination and innovation is so.damn.clever.

“It’s the cliché that your imagination is the only limitation. If you can think it, you can make it.” – Kerry Murphy, The Fabricant

And anyone and everyone is now a creator. Brands are realising this. If they want to stay relevant they have to become creative enablers. The next generations care more about creativity than profit.

“That’s really powerful. You’re putting out a piece of content that everyone personalizes and has a personal experience with.” – Carolina Arguelles Navas, group product marketing manager at Snap Inc

Technology now merges with everything we do and everywhere we go. Our lives are lived through it, never more so than after the past 18 months. Our children are growing up in the Metaverse, and gradually the metaverse is converging with our physical World. All the lines are blurring.

“There will be no clean Before Metaverse and After Metaverse” – Matthew Ball, venture capitalist

There is also a lot of anxiety about technology; at times it moves more quickly than we can handle. We’re mid revolution and it’s a rollercoaster. We’re learning on the fly how to navigate it. The imagined near future of Ready Player One and Black Mirror has every chance of being reality, if we want it.  There are downsides of course but, being honest, the child in me finds it utterly magical. Only time travel and teleportation could surpass this.

“Right now, we have our real lives and our social media lives—you will have a whole existence that can happen in these virtual environments.” – Neha Singh, founder and CEO, Obsess

I’m flying the flag for positivity about our human innovation and where it will take us next. Lose the sinister connotations and the fantasy is so alluring. I sometimes think, what if I was born 100 years earlier? I would’ve missed all of this. From a historical perspective, it’s such an exciting time to be alive.

Creativity Reframed

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